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UK Politics – Party Members

4. Trends in Party Membership

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore trends in party membership in the UK, focusing in particular on: (i) the steady decline in party membership across three key political parties (Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats) prior to 2015; (ii) the uptick in political party membership from 2015 onwards, particularly in Labour; (iii) possible explanations for these trends, particularly the long-term decline in party membership, including (iv) class and partisan dealignment; (v) the availability of other forms of political participation and activism, such as joining interest groups; (vi) political disillusionment; (vii) possible explanations for the recent increases in party membership involvement, including (viii) changes in Labour’s leadership selection process and the influence of Jeremy Corbyn; (ix) the influence of single-issue political movements, such as Scottish Independence and the SNP.


In this course, Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex) explores party membership in the UK. In the first module, we ask why, if at all, parties still need party members, listing in detail the various purposes party members still serve in 2022. In the next module, we move on to explore the demographic composition of party membership in the UK, and outline the key features of Seyd & Whiteley’s ‘general incentives’ model for why people still join political parties. In the third module, we explore party membership activity in the UK’s key political parties, answering the question: “What do party members actually do?” using Professor Webb’s own primary research. In the fourth module, we analyse trends in party membership in the UK, before finally, in the fifth module, concluding with an evaluation of the extent to which the internal organisation of British political parties can be described as ‘democratic’.


Paul Webb is Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex, and has held a number of previous and visiting positions in Britain and abroad, including at the Australian National University (Canberra) and Nihon University (Tokyo). His research interests focus on representative democracy, particularly party and electoral p politics. His recent publications include (with Tim Bale and Monica Poletti) Footsoldiers: Party Members in the 21st Century (2019) and (with Susan Scarrow and Thomas Poguntke) Organizing Political Parties: Representation, Participation and Power (2017).

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APA style

Webb, P. (2022, July 10). UK Politics – Party Members - Trends in Party Membership [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Webb, P. "UK Politics – Party Members – Trends in Party Membership." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Jul 2022,

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